The Byrds, however, were a multi-faceted group with many changing phases of organic development throughout their brief existence, from folk-rock to the complicated studio constructions of the whole Younger/Notorious era to the sparkling country-rock of the Gram Parsons/Clarence White years. That is the crux of the problem: With such an extensive pre-existing palette to dip into, bands can go on infinitely treading on the timeless visions of their predecessors. The Velvet Underground was the first band to be pillaged to this extent, and it's interesting to note that, while earlier alt-rock bands like R.E.M. and Velvet Crush tended to concentrate more on the folkiness angle of the Byrds, Beachwood Sparks seems to be fascinated by the druggy haze of later Byrds (even the drum sound in "Drinkwater" is a complete re-adaptation of McGuinn's sonic concept on Notorious). But whereas the Byrds were profound, the Beachwoods are merely flighty and sometimes outright dippy (one lyric goes "Like spinach and Muhammad Ali/A cloud in a whirlwind out of the West"). And where the Byrds were lush, Beachwood Sparks is sometimes merely lackadaisical. Despite the derivativeness, the vocal harmonies are as fresh as they come, echoing the Beach Boys in their chorale finesse ("Ghost Dance 1492" sounds like an outtake from when the Boys were palling around with Charles Manson).
Although Beachwood Sparks won't win any prizes for originality, it may someday help answer the age-old question: So you want to be a rock 'n' roll star?